Alan Sillitoe dies at 82; chronicled postwar Britain
British writer Alan Sillitoe, whose “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” and “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” chronicled the bleak postwar realities of Britain’s poor, died Sunday. He was 82.
The writer’s son, David, said his father had died at London’s Charing Cross Hospital but gave no other details.
Sillitoe, a leading member of the 1950s group of so-called angry young men of British fiction, was acclaimed for his uncompromising social criticism and depiction of domestic tensions — often dubbed kitchen-sink dramas.
Albert Finney starred in the adaptation of “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” as a disillusioned young factory worker. In the “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” Tom Courtenay portrayed a young delinquent whose athletic prowess is seized upon by authorities as proof of their ability to rehabilitate troubled youths.
“He put somehow forgotten places at center stage,” British poet Ian McMillan told the BBC. “He made the ordinary life into a kind of poetry.”
Recalling his modest upbringing in Nottingham, central England, Sillitoe once recalled the smells of “leaking gas, stale fat and layers of moldering wallpaper.”
Born in 1928, Sillitoe left school at 14 and worked in factories. He later served as a wireless operator in the Royal Air Force, including in British-controlled Malaya, now Malaysia.
When he became ill with tuberculosis, he was confined to a hospital for 18 months, during which time he began to write.
Sillitoe lived briefly overseas with Ruth Fainlight, the American poet he married in 1959, but later returned to Britain. She survives him, along with their son and daughter.
Sillitoe, who shunned the celebrity life, also wrote poetry, children’s books and stage and television plays.
In his autobiography, “Life Without Armour,” Sillitoe wrote: “The occupation of a novelist is a lonely one: labouring like the coalminer far underground … he has only the light from his helmet to illuminate the unique ore he has discovered, at which he must work undisturbed.”